By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published by Mega Doctor News in its newsprint edition December 2017
Once more, the Rio Grande Valley has solidified itself as a special place. Day after day, this region embraces professionals from every part of the world as each one brings specialties and talents combined with a passion for solving the health issues that are prevalent in the Valley.
Dr. Hazem B. Kanaan, D.O., an Osteopathic Physician specializing in Obstetrics and Gynecology, is a new healthcare provider to the Valley. He is a licensed board-certified physician, trained with a unique perspective on care as an OB/GYN and Obesity Medicine. He graduated with honors from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in 2009, then he completed his OB/GYN training at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in Detroit, Michigan by 2013. “OB/GYN is the medical specialty that deals with women’s health and reproductive health starting from the teenage years all the way through their menopause,” Dr. Kanaan told Mega Doctor News in an exclusive interview.
He has gone the extra mile in his education and training. “I finished my fellowship in obesity and metabolic disease management, so, I could offer more help to my patients’ concerns for women, although I also trained to take care of men, and pediatric patients for obesity.” In this field, he is also board-certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine.
The Obstetrics/Gynecology practice is relatively new to him as a solo practitioner. He said, “Although I’ve been here in the Valley for over four years now, I just opened in October of 2017.” He named his clinic All Women Medical Clinic, but, like he said, “I’m not holding back, I also practice obesity management with a separate entity, in the same physical location, and it’s called RGV Medical Weight Loss.” His goal is to help patients who have struggled with weight problems and unhealthy lifestyle choices. According to Dr. Kanaan, he uses evidence based medicine to shape specific plans to meet a patient’s personal needs. Having a background in health care and women’s services, Dr. Kanaan found a significant need in the Rio Grande Valley for lifestyle reform and empowering weight loss habits and plans.
Dr. Kanaan was born and raised in the Damascus, Syria. “I moved to the United States in 1999, and I landed in Georgia. Then I did my undergraduate studies at Kennesaw State University.” In 2005, he got accepted to West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. “I graduated from there in 2009; then I went up to Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in Detroit, Michigan where I did my residency training for OB/GYN and finished in 2013,” he said.
When he came to the Valley, his first job was at Mission Regional Hospital under Mission Health. During the time that he worked with Mission and the time that he spent with the University of Texas, he completed his fellowship and training in the Obesity Medicine.
“I hope I can change one patient at a time because it’s time to change the culture,” he said categorically. “It’s the lifestyle what’s making this place unhealthy, making diabetes, obesity, and heart attacks number one; so, one patient at a time is the plan.”
Dr. Kanaan has a plan to reach out to the schools to offer his services. “I am interested in early education, where if I start with a new generation and I teach them right, hopefully by the time they grow up they will teach the others, and we break the cycle.” He admits that sometimes it is hard to challenge older folks to change, but he firmly believes it’s a lot easier to convince a young child to change. “Usually when they get into the teens, you can give them a rational thought process where it makes sense, and they buy into it.” He said.
Dr. Kanaan is not wasting time when it comes to delivering his message. The week when this interview took place, he had scheduled with one of the schools to do a health seminar for the employees, so they get to know him.
The more significant plan for him is to give a proposal to the entire school district, including their board members, for a weight loss management/lifestyle modification plan. “Hopefully they will take that into consideration, and we can come up with a five-year plan; that’s my goal,” he said.
What concerns you about the future about OB/GYN specifically? “There have been significant changes with the insurance, and with reimbursements, and there is a lot more pressure on the physician that is causing many private practices to stop taking Medicaid and Medicare.” He said, ‘The government keeps cutting back and paying less. The doctors are fed up, and saying “I don’t want to see Medicaid or Medicare patients.”
Dr. Kanaan says that the current situation puts a significant burden on those physicians who do because they have to attend to so many patients, and fewer doctors are accepting them. “Consequently, the patients pack the ER’s and other medical doctors, so it becomes a significant volume that increases with time.”
Do you have a solution? “It’s hard to suggest a solution at this point without lobbyists, without people who are in Congress, because people who make these decisions are in Austin, where they have less than 10% population dependent on Medicaid. So, they could not care less if they make a recommendation of cutting 1 to 2% on Medicare because it’s not going to affect them,” he said.
He pointed out that in the Rio Grande Valley it’s vice versa, 10 to 15% are private. There’s a huge number, more than 80%, that are dependent on Medicare. He said, “So, 1% cut on Medicare is 8% for the entire Valley. That’s huge. So that’s why without lobbyists, without people representing us in Austin or DC, it’s tough to challenge the system.”
What inspired you to become a doctor? “My dad, Dr. Bassam Ahmad Kanaan; he is a retired radiologist and since I was a kid that’s all I wanted to do.” He continued, “As a matter of fact, my mom has a letter since I was in first grade or fifth grade that I wrote to my dad when he was traveling. I wrote, “I want to be like you. I want to be a doctor.” And that’s has been my goal since I can remember.”
How did you meet your wife? “I’ll let her tell you that story. It sounds better coming from her,” he said. As this conversation was taking place, his wife Amira was with him; they have been married since 2006.
She said, “Actually I have known his mom longer than him. I love her; I love his mom, and she loves me.” She continued, “So, when he came to visit Syria, he saw me, and his mom, Ms. Abida Ghannam, said to him, “Look at her, she’s beautiful,” and other things like that; it was kind of an arranged marriage and we got engaged after two weeks. He applied for my papers to come to America and after one year I came with him.”
Dr. Kanaan, when you saw Amira was it love at first sight? “Absolutely. Unmistakable,” Dr. Kannan said.
They have two boys, Bassam 10, and Amir 4. “Both of them are into modeling and available for TV commercials,” said Mrs. Kanaan.
Do you have any hobbies or interests? “Wife and kids, and politics.”
Dr. Kanaan has the intention of someday going into politics and has been working in the background on many campaigns. Today, he says, “Making a change comes with those who have the keys. And to me I’m here, these are my four walls, I have this clinic key. I can only see one patient at a time. If I have access to making legislative actions and reforms where I can affect hundreds of people at the same time, I’d feel that patients would be better off that way.”
Dr. Kanaan and his wife, Amira, appreciate the love and support of the Rio Grande Valley. He said, “As somebody who’s not born and raised here, to get welcomed as family, it gives me a lot of energy and a lot of encouragement to make this place a better place because if I felt like an outsider, I would have packed up and left.”
He can be reached at his practice, called the All Women Medical Clinic and RGV Medical Weight Loss clinic located at 800 E. Dove Ave, Ste. L, in McAllen, Texas. Office: (956) 843-0173
Mega Doctor News has selected Dr. Hazem B. Kanaan, D.O., as the Mega Doctor this month because of his passion to do whatever he can to improve the health of the people of the Rio Grande Valley.